Aloha Friday Message – September 22, 2017 – BHLJ!

1738AFC092217 – BHLJ!

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Matthew 20:16 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Matthew 22:14 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

Revelation 3:2020 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

This painting was part of my life as a child. I remember seeing it in my Sunday School classroom. I think it was also in the office of our Pastor, Rev. Robert Lutz. It was in one of the Bibles I owned sometime around Jr High. And that Bible verse was part of the Sword Drill. “Sword Drill” was a program of memorizing Bible Verses. Then we’d have contests to see who could recall a verse quickest. Seeing Jesus at the door and knowing why He was there seems to have always been a part of me; it is unforgettable.

In later years I have wondered how many times I have left him standing there while I went on with my life. This passage comes from the letter to the Church at Laodicea. They were enjoying the good life with plenty of worldly things to their credit. But Jesus scolds them for being lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. No fervor in their faith, no fire in their prayers. In the verses just before today’s Bible verse, He tells them, 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  And there it is again: Repent. Will we? Have we? Can we? Shall we? Who’s knocking at your door? Is that Jesus calling you? Isaiah 55:6 6 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. How near is he if he’s knocking at your door?

He stands at the door of your heart and my heart and asks to come in, to share Fellowship with us, to be family with us. He waits patiently to be invited in. “Oh, I don’t need that junk about church! It’s just a bunch of hog-wash!” “Organized religion is just a crutch. I can worship God any way I want and he’ll understand.” “God is me and in me and I am God and in Him. It’s all good.”

Hmmm. Jesus might be able to say that, but it just doesn’t ring true for us to say that. The church a Laodicea was thinking they could live their faith according to their own standards, do their own thing, take the middle road to worldly comfort so as not to bother anyone, to be politically-correct Christians. They were complacent in their self-sufficiency. And they left Jesus standing at the door.

I’m asking you, urging you, even begging you not to do that. Here’s an example of how easy it is to forget the Fellowship of having Christ in your heart:

A Christian and a Quarter

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he took ride on the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, “You’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh, forget it, it’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a ‘gift from God’ and keep quiet.”

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, “Here, you gave me too much change.”

The driver, with a smile, replied, “Aren’t you the new preacher in town?”

 “Yes” he replied.

“Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about finding somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.”

When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, “Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.”

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really clear example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! Always be on guard – and remember – you carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself “Christian.” How can we avoid making the mistake of forgetting our calling to be Christians?

 Philippians 2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. I’ll bet you remember this: “What Would Jesus Do?”

Talk about a loaded question! It seems that in our lives it boils down to something more like, “What would Jesus NOT do?” He probably wouldn’t do a lot of the things that churn up our consciences. Make that things which should churn up our consciences. I envision that idea of conscience as “that little old man in the back-right corner of my brain.” If he is a pest at times, it is only because I am so often a fool at times, and either argue with him or ignore him. That pretty much always turns out to be a mistake. As St. Paul rightly pointed out so often, it comes down to attitude.

That’s a word I’ve always had trouble with in my personal and public life. “Drop the attitude!” I certainly heard that often while growing up in Denver. Think of “attitude” and the outcome of a judgment of someone or something (most noun-forms would fit here – person, place, animal, thing, or idea) a judgment that is rife with emotion. It can be a positive or negative thing. “He’s got a great attitude!” “You’ve got a really bad attitude young man!” A friend who performed comedy often says, “He’s suffering from a bad altitude.” While obviously a punny malaprop, it really gets at the core idea of attitude in a very graphic way.

After looking at that, what can we deduce or infer about what Paul is recommending to the Philippians and to us? He wants our attitude to be the same as Jesus’ attitude. If I pray, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto your heart,” I am asking to have “the attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.” In the verses immediately previous to this passage, Paul is once again sounding a very familiar theme: “Stop being divisive, and be united in love and humility as Christ has commanded and as we have taught you.” (See Philippians 2:1-4)

As an example, as this passage in Philippians continues, Paul asserts that Jesus’ example was to set aside his own (considerable) importance and to take up the “form of a slave.” This was something he did out of obedience to his Father; his obedience was so profound that he voluntarily submitted to death, even the most shameful and horrific death of the cross. He became for the entire World – literally for Heaven and Earth and All Time – the lowest of the low. Because of this, God acclaimed and extolled him, lavishing on him the greatest name and honor. So magnificent was this blessing of God on Jesus that simply at the mention of the name JESUS, every created thing from angels to rocks would truthfully acknowledge his power, dominion, and glory.

Paul understood this, and he also understood how far from that Ideal his own life stood. Think back to the opening of The Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Paul consistently tells us that we need to model our lives in the image and form of the life of Christ. There is an interesting preposition in this passage that conveyed that quite clearly to the Philippians – and to us if we are attentive: also in Christ Jesus. The preposition there is έν [en]. The connotation is of something that is permanently and naturally (uncontrived) unchanging in place, time, or condition, something that is an integral part of the location or entity. Jesus’ attitude of love, ἀγάπη, was and is a permanent, natural, integral aspect of Jesus as Lord. That’s the kind of LOVE Paul is reminding us Jesus commanded us to cultivate and share.

To me the verse, “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus” now comes out as “Ensure that your disposition toward all things is identical to the predominant and fundamental disposition of Christ: Perfectly modest, humble, and unselfish and utterly consecrated to the service of God and one another. Paul has an uncanny way of packing 10 pounds of meaning into a 3 pound jar!

Going back to the imagery in 1st Corinthians and transposing it here: “You should be a symphony of loving kindness rather than the loud noise of selfish conceits.” My life should ring like a crystal bell; instead it sounds like an empty garbage can kicked down a very long staircase. Dan Seaborn is  credited for coming up with the catchphrase “What Would Jesus Do.” It was a pretty popular motto back in the 90’s and lots of people had bracelets, T-shirts, badges, and bumper stickers reading W.W.J.D.? Finally after a few years the popularity faded, and the world moved on to something else. Paul’s message, however, has been true, reflected upon, preached, analyzed, memorized, and applied to daily living for over 1900 years. It’s not a catchphrase; it’s a formidable challenge.

Paul tells us that Christ Jesus required, and submitted to, humility before all other things. It took humility to obey. It took humility to empty himself and become an earthling. It took humility to direct his life and our hearts to God. It takes Love to be humble. “Be Humble Like Jesus.”B.H.L.J.” I guess if I really want to do that, I should have in me the same attitude as Christ. Maybe it would be wise to just listen to that little old guy in the back of my head, zip my lip, and light up my heart so I can clearly see all the things I do that Jesus wouldn’t do.

He’s inviting me to dinner at my place. That’s where he can be found. I’m invited to dine with him. He’s knocking and calling, and I’m choosing to open that door without letting the Devil sneak in. (Go ahead, check it out!) If I remain in Fellowship with him until the last moment of my life, the first moment of my New Life will be in Fellowship with him. That last will be the first.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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